Title: Halo (A Third Path)
Fandom: Star Wars Prequel Trilogy
Characters: Anakin Skywalker/Padmé Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Captain Typho, Sheev Palpatine|Darth Sidious
Warnings/Rating: none, T
Word Count: 7200 or so
Summary: What if the relationship dynamics of their marriage remained the same as at the end of AotC?
He’s late again, and hungry and irritable. It’s a pattern that’s become all too common, as well as the one where the door opens to a silent apartment, because C-3PO is powered down in the corner and Padmé’s curled asleep on one end of a sofa.
She looks so perfectly peaceful and lovely that his mood instantly eases as he shucks off his cloak and kneels next to her. She hasn’t eaten either, or he’d let her sleep.
Or not. He loves the warm welcome in her lips after her eyes flutter open, the convulsive grip of her hands that tells him how much she’s missed him too. Home.
“Hey, sleepyhead. Sorry to keep you waiting again,” he murmurs, smiling.
“S’okay. …I must be coming down with something. Can’t seem to keep my eyes open recently. How was work?”
He frowns and brings a hand to her forehead automatically, but she doesn’t feel feverish, and her Force presence is vibrant and healthy. Even brighter than usual, in fact, which makes the fatigue even more odd. “We foiled a plot to poison the air systems feeding into the Chancellor’s chambers. Just wish we had the same power as the magistrates or the Jedi. We weren’t allowed to even observe the interrogation.”
Her eyes widen and she runs her hands over his arms and neck, scanning him anxiously for signs of injury. “Another attempt? Was everybody all right?”
Anakin shakes his head dismissively as he helps her up. “Yeah, I mastered breath control ages ago and the gas they used had this acrid smell, so we detected it right away. A couple of the other guards were treated for inhalation, but no lasting harm. What bothers me is that the investigation will likely go nowhere again. The slimeballs will just refuse to talk and slink into hiding after making bail. If we could just act without having to worry about all the legal stuff, we’d have a lead, or at least know if this was an isolated incident.”
“It sounds frustrating,” she observes, placing a dish in the warmer.
Anakin gestures restlessly as he fills their glasses. “We caught them in the act! We should be able to force a confession out of them.”
Padmé frowns. “Well, being guilty of a crime doesn’t void their rights.”
Anakin shrugs. “…It wastes time and opportunity. And it doesn’t seem just to me.”
“Maybe not to somebody who is used to cutting through red tape with Jedi authority. But courts, not individuals, decide the shades of right and wrong for the rest of us; dealing out punishment preemptively isn’t justice. There must be other ways you can investigate.”
Anakin exhales and shrugs. “We’re looking at gas manufacturers, and the container they used might be traceable. I just think an attempt on the Chancellor should be taken more seriously! They brought in the Jedi to protect you after one attempt. There are a couple of magistrates I don’t mind working with, but mostly they’re overworked and overwhelmed.”
Padmé frowns, also puzzled. “That’s true. …I suppose the Jedi are as well, with so many of them being assigned to lead campaigns in the War. That’s the only reason I can imagine why the Chancellor isn’t asking for their help. The media is certainly upset about how these attacks keep recurring.”
Anakin shakes his head with disgust. “He keeps saying how lucky he is to have a former Jedi working security. But honestly, I can’t do half the things I used to. I still keep reaching for my lightsaber- blasters are about offense, not defense. I wish I could do more.”
Padmé wraps her arms around him, eyes blazing. “Hey. You’ve reduced your hand to scrap once defending the Chancellor. Disarmed perpetrators with your powers and then kept them immobilized—all without harming anybody. He is incredibly lucky to have you.”
Anakin can’t help but smile. “Look at you spinning the positives like a politician.”
“I’m proud of you. You should be too,” she says staunchly.
Anakin flushes with pleasure at her effusive defense and pulls her close until the warmer behind her beeps.
“At least I got an upgrade on the hand after,” he jokes, stroking her hair back, grateful that he’s no longer touching her with exposed metal. “Nice not to have to be content with austerely practical. Come on, let’s eat. It smells amazing.”
Padmé smiles. “It’s Kessel stew. Dormé’s been experimenting with spicier recipes from the database, and Threepio showed her how to make flatbread.”
Anakin beams as he sits. “Remind me to thank them.”
They both eat heartily of the excellent stew while they debate their options for the upcoming weekend: they’re hoping to take advantage of the rare meshing of their schedules to take a little trip.
“The mountains on Alderaan are beautiful and the food, art and music are all exquisite. I’ve only been once and I’d love to go back. Plus it’s such a short ride, so we could be back quickly in case an emergency session is called. Alternatively, we could go to Corellia- there’s beautiful natural illumination in their jungles at this time of year. I seem to recall a boy with big dreams of traveling, and I’m betting Jedi are never sent to peaceful Core planets,” Padmé teases.
Anakin shrugs sheepishly. “Well… they sound nice enough, but podracing season has just started on Malastare, too. I’ve seen adverts and followed racer stats for years, but as a Padawan there was no way I could go.”
Padmé blinks with dismay. “Podracing? Like on Tatooine?”
Anakin grins and tilts his head charmingly. “I haven’t had the chance to see a race in person since I left. It’ll be fun to make bets and try all the snacks I never had credits for. Besides, you know we’re going to spend half the trip in bed trying to make a baby anyway.”
She flushes and bites her lip. “Wouldn’t you rather make a baby on a luxurious bed with a beautiful view?”
Anakin laughs and raises his brows. “Because we’ll be looking at the scenery?”
She refuses to give in despite the flush on her cheeks. “Well it’s better than spending the rest of the time watching a bunch of vehicles going around in circles, trying to smash each other out of the running. Just imagine how romantic it would be to bathe in a private hot spring with snow falling around us.”
“’A bunch of vehicles going around in circles’? I think you sorely need an education in the synergy of piloting skill and engineering involved,” he teases.
She rolls her eyes. “At least you can’t have built a racer with how busy you’ve been! I still can’t believe Master Qui-Gon had the audacity to stake everything, sight unseen.”
He chuckles and opens his mouth to tease her about lacking faith in her future husband before movement in the Force distracts him. His head snaps towards the door before he grins with bewildered delight and drops his fork, almost knocking his chair over in his haste to get to the door.
“Obi-Wan’s here!” he calls back over his shoulder.
The comm beeps, but Anakin’s already palmed the door switch before the guard has a chance to announce anything.
To his credit, he only looks startled for a moment.
“You…have a visitor,” he says, bemused, even as Anakin is happily waving Obi-Wan inside.
“Master! Come in, come in!”
Obi-Wan smiles warmly as Padmé hurries over to greet him.
“Master Kenobi, can we set you a place? We’re just enjoying our evening meal now and there’s plenty for one more.”
“Thank you, my lady. I would be delighted,” he says with a bow. Padmé goes to fetch another setting from the pantry while Anakin gestures towards the table, getting another glass and bottle of wine from the cupboard.
“You both look very well,” Obi-Wan says quietly, gripping Anakin’s shoulder with obvious approval.
Anakin inclines his head, understanding the implied assessment. “You know what the Masters say: the Force often works in mysterious ways. It was strange not having a master at first, but my wife and my job keep me striving to meet challenges anyway.” He gives Obi-Wan a curious look. “I haven’t felt your presence on Coruscant for months. And you seem-” he breaks off, unsure.
Obi-Wan raises his brows and sighs. “The Jedi now command soldiers and battalions instead of arbitrating disputes and investigating truths. It’s… an unfortunate way to try to regain peace.”
Anakin nods, eyes downcast, and Padmé gives them both a searching look as she re-enters and places a setting before Obi-Wan. “Perhaps the Jedi Council has recalled you so you can take some time to rest and refresh yourself at the temple. I am sure every system is as grateful for your assistance as the Naboo were in our time of need.”
Anakin tries to keep envy from coloring his tone as he offers a glass of wine. “And you’ve certainly distinguished yourself in battle, master. Even the Chancellor has spoken of your skill, both with the lightsaber and in command.”
Obi-Wan waves a hand dismissively. “I’ve seen some of the stories in the media, and I would say it’s far less glorious than described. Death and destruction on such a large scale… it’s not easy to witness, nonetheless be a party to. I must admit I have little love for it.”
Anakin frowns. “Well, surely more deaths have been prevented through your actions.”
Obi-Wan smiles wistfully. ”That is the justification we give ourselves. And of course, the Jedi must support the Republic.” He shakes his head, eyes brightening. “Come to think of it, there was a starfight I thought you would have enjoyed immensely. We were in the Iego system, trying to take down a containment field the Separatists had installed over the planet. About thirty of us, mostly clone pilots, in Z-95s-“
Anakin’s mouth falls open. “Couldn’t they have at least given you ships with an astromech socket?”
“Not on such short notice. Remember: Government funds move a lot slower far from the Core. Anyway, we were moving in standard scout formation when…” Obi-Wan moves his hands to demonstrate as Anakin listens, utterly rapt.
Padmé can’t help but smile over how animated they both get as they converse. They’ve obviously sorely missed each other, so she makes her excuses soon after they’ve all finished eating.
“No, no, please! Sit. Stay, and enjoy your visit. I’m probably coming down with something and need more sleep to fight it off. Try not to stay up all night, or to forget to get more wine for our guest if you run out,” she reminds Anakin, pressing a kiss to his cheek.
Obi-Wan extends a hand. “Well, I greatly appreciate the hospitality, my lady. It was wonderful to see you.”
Padmé blinks, surprised by the formality, but she gives him her hand to hold and bow over before retiring for the bedroom.
Obi-Wan remains standing contemplatively for long enough that Anakin tilts his head curiously. “What is it?”
He hesitates. “…Anakin, surely you’ve noticed. Padmé’s not ill.”
Anakin chuckles knowingly. “Of course she isn’t. Pretty sure she just wanted to let us talk without having to explain all the shorthand to her.”
Obi-Wan smiles wistfully at the easy affection there, wishing the Council had asked anybody else to do this particular errand.
“Anakin, I don’t quite know how to put this- have you been trying for a child?”
He looks at him with blank astonishment and then turns towards the bedroom, grinning. “The medbot said it takes an average couple three months of trying! We were hoping to time it with the completion of the Senate year-”
He’s taken two eager steps towards the bedroom before he remembers that he’s supposed to be hosting, but Obi-Wan waves him on, already backing towards the front door.
“No, no, go on! Talk to Padmé! Hopefully I will see you both again before the Council sends me off on another campaign. After all, it’s far more important to confirm such happy news than for old friends to trade stories,” he says, smiling ruefully.
And he’s grateful that Anakin’s incandescent joy is enough to eclipse his own feelings over that unfortunate truth.
It’s not just the reunion that ends in a surprise: the next day Padmé is given a diplomatic mission to Malastare.
Anakin’s immediately uneasy when she tells him. “But you’re pregnant! Shouldn’t some other senator go?”
She's rather amused by his protectiveness. “Well, nobody knows yet, nor should they until we’re sure this pregnancy is viable. And it’s not like talks are physically taxing. Captain Typho, Dormé and Threepio will accompany me, so I’ll have plenty of support staff.” She pauses, cupping his cheek tenderly when he continues to frown. “The Republic is hemorrhaging systems. Diplomacy is needed to convince heads of state to reconsider, and Malastare has always been a key system. The Chancellor suspects that Senator Ainlee Teem has held a grudge ever since losing his own bid for Chancellor. An appeal in person from the head of the opposition to the Doge and his Council will show the Republic’s commitment to Malastare.”
“I just… I can’t explain it, but I have a bad feeling about this,” Anakin frets.
She hesitates. “One of your dreams?”
“No. Not as clear as that,” he admits. “Or I wouldn’t allow you to go at all.”
She frowns. “Allow me?”
He hastily retracts his statement. “I mean, I’d have something more definite to convince you with.”
She softens immediately and pulls him close. “You know I trust your intuition. Could- do you think the Chancellor might spare you for a couple days?”
Anakin frowns. “He still mentions how taking so many personal days to go back to Naboo with you made him uneasy about his security. With the constant threat of assassination, he prefers me on his guard. They’re also going to make some decisions about spacecraft commissions this week, and it’s a privilege to be privy to the discussion- he says I have a lot more hands-on experience with engine builds and piloting than his political advisors.”
She presses her lips together. The favoritism the Chancellor shows him is odd, even if she’s sure Anakin is incorruptible and hardly on the payroll of one of the shipyards or corporations jockeying for contracts. But she is good at finding compromises, so she smiles bracingly.
“Well, how about we leave early, go for the weekend, like you wanted? You can come back on your own once you’ve assessed the place, made sure there’s no threat lurking around. And…” she sighs with mock exasperation, “I suppose we can see the podraces if we’re there anyway.”
His eyes light up with excitement at that unexpected boon. “Really?”
She chuckles and nods, and he whoops and whirls her in a loop. “Aw, Padmé, you’re the best! I’ve been checking out some of the stats on the racing teams and it’s an incredible lineup! This will be so much better than some scenic tour, I promise!”
She has to laugh at his boyish enthusiasm. “Uh huh. Sure.” Maybe his presence will dispel whatever foreboding he felt too. He isn’t brooding about it anyway, which is a good sign.
He raises his eyebrows wickedly as he chuckles. “Well, if the races don’t entertain you, I promise to find some other way to make this trip worth your while.”
Pleased, she pulls him down to claim a kiss. “Well, I do like the way you keep your promises…”
And with that, they both focus their attention on letting him demonstrate.
It ends up being serendipitous, in more ways than one.
Doge Nakha Urus is also in the VIP section where Dormé had procured them seats, although he’s initially impatient with the need for diplomatic courtesy when he would rather be focused on the impending race.
That is, until Senator Amidala introduces her husband.
He gives them both a curious look. “Anakin Skywalker? Relation to human podracer from Tatooine?” he asks in Basic.
They both blink, astonished, before Anakin smiles and bows, speaking in Dug. “…That’s me! Built the racer with refurbished parts. Padmé and I met just before that race. Changed my life, but I’m surprised anybody remembers- it was years ago.”
Doge Nakha Urus chortles and rubs his back appendages together with relish. “Ah, I never forget a racer that surprises me! A finishing time of 15 minutes and 42 seconds at the Boonta Eve Classic. You beat our Sebulba and lost me some money. Would never have believed a human child could have the reflexes for podracing, but now I am understanding! So you ended up a Jedi for some time, huh? You’re sure we can’t interest you in competing today?”
Anakin grins and shakes his head modestly. “I’m just here with my wife. Been wanting to come for years. Quad drives weren’t around when I was racing, so it’ll be exciting to see them in action. And I’ve heard a lot about the course hazards-”
The Doge chuckles and nods enthusiastically. “Yes, yes, not a contest without the spur of danger! Perhaps you’d like a stroll through the pits? I have connections on the circuit- we can take a look before the race as long as we stay out of the way of the crews. And you can give me a few expert tips, huh?”
Anakin grins. “If it’s not too much trouble. Padmé, can you believe our good fortune?”
She smiles back automatically at his delight, although she’s slightly dumbfounded by how neatly the pieces have fallen into place. She often wonders if this is some kind of Jedi effect.
She’s still relieved to be able to converse with a Doge in a far more generous mood, with C-3PO eagerly serving as translator. And the conversation naturally wanders from racer backgrounds to the Doge’s concerns about growing discrimination against non-human species in the Republic, from engine part suppliers to trade route disruption and the unfairness of privileges accorded Core Worlds.
“You must agree, Senator, that Mid Rim planets like Malastare and Naboo have the most to lose. Those from Malastare value loyalty, but we also have a healthy appreciation for innovation. And the Separatists now espouse interests and ideals that will benefit us more than the antiquated rules of the Republic. I cannot ignore the possible benefits to my people because of nostalgia or fear of embracing the new.”
She nods. “Very fair points, Doge. But the Republic is not a static entity, incapable of change. There is always, always new legislation being brought to the Senate, affecting change across the galaxy. I’m here to make sure the concerns of those in the minority are heard. And I’ll do my best to address them immediately.”
The Doge gives her a nod of grudging respect. “I am glad some in the Senate still listen. Our own Senator has expressed much concern about corruption affecting the Galactic Senate, especially in the Chancellor’s circle.”
Anakin’s face darkens and Padmé quickly places a restraining hand on his arm. “I’m… sure those allegations are unfounded, merely fabricated rumors. I know for a fact that the Chancellor has devoted his whole life to public service,” Padmé assures him.
The Doge gives her a skeptical look before a trio of racers rounds a turn with incredible verve, barely missing each other, and the whole crowd surges to their feet.
They both dispense with political talk for the rest of the day. Official talks will occur soon enough, and they’ve given each other ample food for thought already.
Anakin's delighted when Padmé admits that she's been enjoying herself much more than she had expected.
"It's a lot more thrilling when your fate isn't staked on the results," she protests, smacking his arm when he gives her a smug grin.
"So you might be amenable to coming again next year?" he asks, and she rolls her eyes and smiles.
"Well... you might have to ask the baby, too," she reminds him.
"Ah. That's true," he concedes happily, pulling her close. Now that he knows it's there, he can observe the life growing in her, so vibrantly bright that it almost seems like two souls, nurtured and safe.
That quiet thrill and the excitement of the races, delicious food and lively marketplaces distract him from uneasy awareness less and less though. By the time he's supposed to return to Coruscant, he's visibly agitated.
“I just- I can’t explain it. I don’t want to leave you here. I feel-” he gestures restlessly, still unable to find a source for the creeping sense of impending violence.
Captain Typho clears his throat. “With all due respect, we’ve both checked the hotel, the transport and the Council chambers multiple times, sir. And there’s been no statement of ill intent like there was before the assassination attempt. We’d need solid evidence before we could justify bringing more armed security to a diplomatic meeting.”
Anakin exhales impatiently. “I know! I just-“
He meets Padmé’s eyes imploringly and she grips his hand. “I know you’ve done your best. Maybe one last check before you take the transport, to ease your mind?”
He lifts a brow sardonically. “Fifth time’s the charm?”
Padmé sighs. “Ani, I believe you. But we both have jobs to do. I swore a vow as a Senator- and these negotiations could be the key to continued peace for billions. I can’t abandon diplomatic talks even if you fear for my safety.”
He thinks hard before he suddenly exhales, equally determined.
“That’s true. But I swore a vow to you, too. Let me just make a couple calls.”
Anakin trades shifts with the Chancellor’s other guards to extend his stay a couple more days. He’ll be working for a couple weeks straight upon returning to Coruscant, but he can’t ignore or suppress his gut instinct.
At first, he feels guilty for the problems his continued presence here causes. Dormé and the local administration have had to rush security passes and authorization; Captain Typho has had to adjust the protocols he has in place for the meeting. But that feeling of wrongness reaches a fever pitch when talks break for lunch.
Anakin frowns as servants push in trolleys laden with fragrant tureens and skewers of food. All looks and smells normal but-
-the servile attitude on that one is feigned! Padmé! NO! DON'T YOU DARE!
He’s already moving before the servant behind the roast meats casually hefts a skewer, aiming one end at the head table.
He’s not going to make it between them in time so he reaches out with the Force, flinging a tray off the trolley to block whatever projectile she was firing off. Captain Typho and the other security guards unholster and aim weapons at the other startled servants even as Anakin reaches the trolley, snatching the "skewer" with one hand and the assailant with the other.
“Republic scum! Boot licking sycophants!” she gasps, clawing at his arm, her other appendages kicking uselessly as he lifts her off the ground, squeezing her throat.
Padmé and the Council are now flanked and covered by the guards but once all the servants have their appendages raised, she scrambles forward, her eyes wide with horror. “Ani! Don’t! Please! You can’t do this!” she cries.
Anakin barely hears her at first, but the red surge of power and fury abates abruptly as her words and that terror on her face --fear of him— registers.
And he drops the assassin, who sucks in a desperate breath while scrabbling for something concealed in her clothing.
“Not so fast,” he gasps, reeling but trying not to reflect too closely yet, immobilizing her limbs instead. “You’re a Separatist?”
She struggles against the invisible bonds, still trying to reach something on her thigh before she nods.
Anakin frowns with confusion.
“You’re… lying,” he pants. “Why?”
Her eyes widen and she raises her voice frantically. “No, you Republic scum must die! Malastare must be free!”
He searches her pockets and finds the object she’d been searching for: a medspray, the sight of which causes tears to well up in her eyes.
“Please! This was supposed to be quick-“ she pleads.
Despite all the rage driving him earlier, he steps back involuntarily now, chilled. She’d expected to die- she has the same sort of desperate drive that he’s felt in suicide bombers. But there are sour notes, like her choice of weapon, even if it was cleverly smuggled in. She might have killed her target, but there would have been survivors aplenty to subdue her. What kind of fanatic chooses a sniper’s weapon and then walks into point blank range?
Captain Typho frowns and carefully bags the medispray for evidence. “Something’s off. A bomb would have made a bigger statement and taken her out instantly. It was like the message was more important.”
“I concur. A True Believer terrorist feels righteous, fanatical. She’s desperate all right, but… she doesn’t actually believe in the Separatist cause.”
Captain Typho inhales, nodding before he looks up. “Looks like the local authorities have arrived. Probably take at least a day before the dust settles- it’s a good thing you took that extra time off. Those former-Jedi powers are truly amazing,” the Captain says gruffly, and Anakin looks over at Padmé and swallows.
She looks as shaken as he feels. Still...
“Just relieved I could be here.”
Despite neutralizing the threat, Anakin's left worried. It’s not just the incongruous nature of the crime; it’s the rest of the evidence.
Unsurprisingly, the assailant refused to say anything except vehement anti-Republic rhetoric and the medspray was full of a particularly virulent toxin: a quick, irreversible way to die. Her accounts also showed a fairly recent deposit of a hefty sum of cash that she "couldn't remember" the source of. The dart they’d found embedded in the tray was also hauntingly familiar- he could swear it was the same shape and make as the one used on Padmé’s would-be assassin months ago.
Obi-Wan had discovered that Viceroy Gunray had been behind the attempts on Padmé's life, but why would he strike at her again in a way that would obviously garner sympathy for the Republic instead of the Separatist cause?
It all points to something other than the straightforward terrorist narrative the Malastare authorities have put together. And he’s annoyed that his observations as a former Jedi were insufficient to induce further investigation.
“Sure, sure, the Force told you she’s a lying liar. No laws against lying to you! And what does it matter, pretty boy? She’s gonna get the chair, 10 to 1 on. And it's even helped your wife- Council's way more likely to vote to stay now.”
Returning to Coruscant is little better even though Padmé is safely behind a full security complement, and the Chancellor is full of praise over the lives saved and diplomatic crisis he’d help avert.
It rankles that he was powerless to pursue the truth, how any lead to the real instigator behind the attack disappears when the abortive "assassin" is swiftly executed.
It makes the new position the Chancellor has spoken of creating for him even more appealing.
Still, he's taken aback when he sees the official notification:
Deviations from the scheduled Guard Roster will no longer be tolerated, to ensure proper security. Effective immediately, Guards making personal “shift swaps” will suffer disciplinary action and/or fines.
Padmé is pleasantly surprised when Obi-Wan pays them another visit.
“I’m afraid Anakin is working extra shifts this weekend, but he should be home in a couple hours if it doesn’t run overtime. We can enjoy some Jawa juice on the terrace in the meantime.”
Obi-Wan bows and smiles pleasantly. “Thank you, Senator. Java juice sounds lovely.”
He speaks cautiously once they're seated. “...I've actually come to speak to you about the likelihood of Force sensitivity in your unborn child.”
Padmé smiles graciously, placing one hand protectively over her belly. “Oh! Well, it’s early yet. Isn’t the blood test done at birth?”
Obi-Wan nods. “Yes. But when we sense the Gift early, we must try to prepare parents beforehand. Most cultures value offspring highly; and it can be difficult to give up more traditional hopes for a child, no matter how one esteems or understands the importance of the Jedi. But Force sensitivity can be a double edged sword- history has shown us many who abuse this power without proper guidance, and without training a Force user will never reach their full potential. If Anakin had been born on a more civilized world, he would have been tested and trained from a much younger age, and doubtless have achieved Knighthood by now, unburdened with the need for attachment.”
Padmé blinks, stung by his choice of words. “Unburdened? Loving attachment is a natural and beautiful part of being human. Don’t you know how much Anakin’s looking forward to raising our child together? Teaching him or her to walk and read and-” she scoffs a little, sure pregnancy hormones are responsible for the tears in her eyes, "fix droids and engines?"
“…I do. You must know how much I regret feeling that power growing inside you. But I also believe the Jedi Temple is the best place for those that are Force-sensitive. Younglings trained from birth in serenity and harmony experience little of the turmoil we've both seen Anakin endure. We do not miss what we have never had.”
Padmé considers for a long moment before she speaks.
“It's just... to never know love? I would never wish that on anybody. Not least on our child. I'm sure Anakin can help her with her Gift initially. And if she still wishes to become a Jedi, we will apply to the Council.”
Obi-wan stifles the urge to remind her that that exact course is probably what lost Anakin any chance at becoming a Jedi, sighing. “You’re angry at the Council for expelling Anakin.”
She looks away. “Yes and no. It hurt him- he felt so abandoned. Lost.”
“...I’m truly sorry I wasn’t able to protect him.”
Padmé looks at him guiltily. “It was just as much my fault. I shouldn't have acted on my feelings. But I'm so glad he's an integral part of my life now, that we're free to be together... even if I know he's often frustrated that he can't use the Force as he had.”
Obi-Wan nods pensively, choosing his words carefully. “Padmé, you must understand: if you have this child here on Coruscant there will be mandatory tests. And the fact that I am able to sense it this early must mean your child is as strong with the Force as Anakin himself. Padmé, he tested off the charts when we found him on Tatooine. The Jedi will only continue to pressure you to give such an extraordinarily gifted child into their care.”
Padmé inhales jaggedly, putting her hands protectively over her belly before meeting his eyes.
“I understand. I’ll speak with Anakin tonight. And we'll let you know our decision.”
"A Military Officer?!"
"The Chancellor says I'm a natural at strategy and of course, I have combat experience from my Jedi training. As an officer, I'd have the authority to open investigations, expose plots or terror cells. To send ships and troops where they are needed. Just think of the possibilities!"
"I am! Handing out special military appointments? I can't believe Sheev Palpatine thinks this is at all acceptable."
"Well, why not?! I want to protect the Republic just as you do, and you know I'm not corrupt! Besides, if the Jedi are now in command of battalions and troops, why shouldn't I be? I was almost ready for the Trials, and now I've had months of experience serving the Republic directly. So why aren't you supporting me in this?"
"Because it's not right! Officers are supposed to rise through the ranks with experience."
"You don't have a problem with the Chancellor commanding the Republic's fleet!"
"Because those vessels were originally for providing aid and transport to systems in dire straits! For thousands of years, the Republic had no Grand Army. It's only now that we have warships, weapons and cloned troops."
"We're at war! How are we supposed to win a war without making ourselves stronger?"
"By addressing the reasons for Separatist discontent! Resolving conflicts through talks and understanding and compromise! That is what civilized society is supposed to uphold. Instead this feels more and more like a dictatorship; like we're quelling obvious injustice with threats of violence."
“Those more powerful get to have control. That's the natural way of things.”
“Those in power are supposed to serve the people, not control them!"
“You’re- you're just confusing the issue like a politician!”
“…Do you think I’m representing the issues unfairly? Trying to filibuster your decision into stalemate? I can’t lie to you. Not even if I wanted to. And I think that you haven't been happy doing this job for some time. What makes you think even more of it will fulfill you?"
“I understand why you want to feel powerful and recognized. But it's not just this... appointment that has me worried. Obi-Wan came to see me today. He says our baby is Force sensitive, and that the Jedi would very much like to raise the child. That if we stay here, they will keep pressuring us to give our child to the Temple. And... I want to love and raise our baby, not watch her get trained from afar. I want this child to set her own path, not one decided by what she holds in her genes... But if what Obi-Wan says is true, this baby will need your guidance. Can you do that if you're fighting a war for the Republic in another star system? …Can you let go of pride and choose a path we can all walk together?”
Anakin approaches the Chancellor with his head inclined humbly before bowing. “Chancellor Palpatine. I'd like to schedule an appointment- perhaps tomorrow- to speak to you formally about my decision."
The Chancellor smiles with delight. "No need for such formality among friends! Tell me now quickly before the next delegation arrives, and we can begin setting the wheels in motion."
Anakin inhales, unsure, before plunging ahead. "...I'm afraid I'll have to decline your generous offer. We've recently learned that Padmé is pregnant. And after discussing our options, we've decided to raise our child on Naboo, among her family and away from…everything here. The pollution, the politics, and pressure. As we've already decided to promote Lt. Arnx to my position, I believe your security will remain uncompromised. I'm just sorry I won't be able to serve you in the capacity you wish.”
To his credit, the Chancellor is only speechless for a moment before he smiles dismissively. “Come, Anakin, don’t be foolish! There’s no need to run off to Naboo! Giving up yet another promising career because of your wife? Think of the power and recognition now that the war is escalating- the Jedi are spread far too thin! You can provide handsomely for your family while safeguarding the entire Republic as she cares for your child.”
Anakin nods regretfully. “…It’s very tempting, and I’ve considered long and hard. But… I never had a father. I can’t do that to my own child, or Padmé. And if something happened to them while I was stuck here on Coruscant or on some battlefield, I’d never forgive myself. I can help fly defense for Naboo- piloting’s what I’m really good at. Actually, Commander Olié’s already offered me a position- ”
His voice falters. There’s a terrible undercurrent in the Force, malevolent and charged. And the Chancellor’s eyes, usually so warm, are cold as ice.
“So much raw power. And yet you lack vision.”
It’s almost as if…
Anakin takes a wary step back. “My first duty is to my family, Chancellor. And myself. I… had hoped you would understand.”
“A joke of the universe. That all I have orchestrated could be undone because of some squalling brat. And your need to breed like an animal.”
The chirp of the intercom seems ridiculously loud, and they both stand frozen as the outside guard’s voice breaks the tableau.
“Chancellor Palpatine: Senators Organa, Amidala and Mon Mothma, as well as Representative Binks here to see you.”
His last afternoon appointment.
The senators enter in a stately procession, utterly oblivious to the swirl of the Force around them, although Padmé frowns questioningly at the look on Anakin’s face.
But the Chancellor has already returned to a mild-mannered smile and Anakin reels, wondering if he could have imagined the whole thing: there's absolutely nothing there to sense now.
“Chancellor Palpatine. We’ve come before you today to inform you of some happy news- and therefore a transfer in leadership for the Opposition.”
Padmé eyes Anakin worriedly before tilting her head slightly, to indicate that he should join her, and he steps forward hastily, keeping a wary eye on the Chancellor and instinctively trying to shield her slight body with his. She gives him another baffled look before speaking.
“Perhaps Anakin has already appraised you, but upon occasion, the needs of private citizens must come before public service. And as we’re currently expecting our first child, our family situation is due to change in only a few months. So we’ve decided to go home to Naboo. I’ve already informed the heads of Chommel sector planets, and they’ll convene to discuss a new Senator delegate tomorrow. Representative Binks and I will work together to handle the transition. The Opposition systems have also convened and voted Senator Mon Mothma to lead in my stead. I am sure her wisdom will help you decide the course for the Republic in these troubling times.”
The Chancellor smiles thinly, his eyes focused on Padmé’s stomach.
“Of course. So be it.”
It's been ages since he's felt so free, spinning towards the ground with Artoo whistling excitedly from the astromech socket. He pulls up in time to make a neat loop over the estate before coming in at a reduced speed for the landing strip.
Padmé comes running when they land, and he can’t help grinning as he raises the cockpit shield and vaults to the ground so he can catch her close and spin her around.
“I almost couldn’t believe it when I heard the engine! You’re home so early! This is the N-2?”
“Yup. Handles way sweeter than the N-1, huh, Artoo?”
The droid chirps an enthusiastic assessment, cycling the craft through cooldown and lock protocols before he ejects. C-3PO tsks and waves.
“There’s no need for dramatics, R2-D2. I’m sure it was perfectly safe with Master Ani at the helm.”
Padmé frowns as she reads the Naboo stenciled on the sides of the ship. “But… the Queen’s wing flies out of Theed.”
“Artoo can secure the ship controls against any would-be fly-boys, and if I file my flight plan at night, I can rendezvous with the fleet in space in the morning. Save the commute. Queen Jamillia was very concerned about maintaining a legal work/life balance.”
“Well, it sounds perfect. Some of us aren’t very patient about meal delays,” she reports, and he laughs and cups his hand over the growing swell of her stomach before he steals another kiss.
“Well, that makes it a unanimous vote. Can’t even remember what lunch was- the commander and I were talking all through. Have to say, it is so nice to fly again.”
Padmé squeezes him happily as they walk towards the house. “Tell me everything over dinner, then. I have so much to tell you about the junior legislators I met with today! And my parents made so much progress on the nursery…”
He’s slept soundly next to her ever since they've been married, and they've been so happy living back on Naboo for months that she doesn't understand at first why he's tossing enough to wake her.
“Ani?” she mumbles blearily.
“No! Stop! No, no, no…” he chokes, struggling in his sleep.
A nightmare. Like when his mother-
“Ani! Wake up. Ani, please! You need to breathe,” she begs, pressing a hand to the side of his face before shaking him. He shudders convulsively when his eyes open and he finally sucks in a breath as if his lungs have suddenly remembered how to work again.
“The Jedi. Even younglings. Slaughtered, like…” he breaks off and shudders, blanching and turning away from her.
“Hey! No. Look at me. Look at me. You’re here. We’re safe.” She doesn’t offer him empty platitudes of reassurance- his dreams might scare her, but they’re all too accurate.
“I should have been there. I should have stopped it. Oh, Padmé, what have I done?”
“Listen to yourself! What could you have done except been killed yourself? We’ll get on comms, see if-”
He shakes his head, tears running down his cheeks. Visions still haunt his mind’s eye: younglings mowed down in classrooms, the Temple a smoking inferno, masters and classmates betrayed and ambushed in one fell stroke all across the galaxy. “I could have been powerful enough to save them, I know it,” he says brokenly, staring at his hands, one real and one false. “I was so sure these powers meant I would do something special. And instead I just- ”
His self-recriminations come to an abrupt halt as he looks past her again, unseeing, his mouth falling open and breath coming in painfully shallow gasps.
When the vision releases him, he pulls her close, squeezing so hard that it hurts.
“Ani?! Stop! Please-!”
He releases her instantly, shocked at himself. His eyes are still wide with the glittery sheen of terror, but he’s utterly certain.
“The baby. They’re coming for our baby.”
A.N.: Bet you thought I’d abandoned this! :P Sorry the update took so long. I’ll try to be faster with the next chap, if only so I get this fic done before TLJ obliterates my theory. XD
Haven’t watched TCW, so Malastare’s worldbuilding is based off of what I gleaned from Wookiepedia and its mention in the films. Internet opinion is split on whether Anakin was speaking Dug or Huttese with Sebulba in TPM, so I went with Dug because plot. :P
Would love to hear your thoughts. This chapter isn't beta-ed, so if you see plot holes big enough to fly a Star Destroyer through, please let me know!